Thornton May: The path to big data mastery

The think-tankers on the Executive Leadership Council at AIIM systematically use a four-box matrix to reduce uncertainty, allocate investments and calibrate new product/service initiatives. This simple tool -- with "important and difficult" in the upper right and "unimportant and easy" in the lower left -- produces surprisingly powerful insights.

During year-end discussions with 40 executives in 20 vertical markets, I discovered that they all now place big data in that upper-right quadrant. Similarly, readers of Booz & Co.'s Strategy+Business blog designated big data the 2013 Strategy of the Year, and the co-directors of Cognizant's Center for the Future of Work, in a masterful white paper, placed big-data-enabled "meaning making" at the pinnacle of strategic endeavor.

That was enough to prompt me to roll up my sleeves and systematically examine, vertical market by vertical market, how organizations are organizing their path to big data mastery.

Over the past few months, I embarked on a study of how North America's 7,100 banks are approaching the big data opportunity. I found that 20% are doing nothing, 25% are preparing to do something, 30% are currently doing something and 25% are achieving mastery.

Recognizing that each bank is unique, with its own capabilities and habits and its own market reality, I nevertheless sought to identify patterns of behavior evidenced by those banks that seemed to have achieved mastery in big data. The following 10-step, high-level pattern repeated itself in institutions possessing differentiated big data capabilities:

* Step 1: Decide to do something.

* Step 2: Craft a narrative.

* Step 3: Access Type 1 smartness.

* Step 4: Inventory analytical resources.

* Step 5: Assess readiness.

* Step 6: Centrally manage analytical resources.

* Step 7: Create analytic capability.

* Step 8: Obtain the support of senior management.

* Step 9: Act on insight.

* Step 10: Link to behavior.

Type 1 smartness, by the way, is the sort of intelligence possessed by someone who can do unstructured problem-solving, like a doctor, who can diagnose a situation and propose an appropriate course of action.

While the path-to-mastery pattern is conceptually simple, successfully executing it requires courage, perseverance and patience. Delivering the true value of big data is important and difficult.

The thing they don't tell you is that it takes time. Acquiring the body of knowledge, learning the language, adopting the ideas and making the cultural adjustments required for harnessing full value from big data is a cumulative process. The path to big data mastery took one entertainment conglomerate seven years -- three to decide to do something and four to build out the infrastructure. Chris Wegrzyn, director of data architecture for the Democratic National Committee, explained to The Huffington Post why the ramp-up to big data mastery took two years for the Obama 2012 campaign: "It's one thing to build up some technology and hire some people. It's another thing entirely to transform how your operation works fundamentally."

How far along are you on the path to big data mastery?

Thornton A. May is author of The New Know: Innovation Powered by Analytics and executive director of the IT Leadership Academy at Florida State College in Jacksonville. You can contact him at thorntonamay@aol.com or follow him on Twitter ( @deanitla).

Read more about management in Computerworld's Management Topic Center.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Latest Videos

Conversations over a cuppa with CMO: Microsoft's Pip Arthur

​In this latest episode of our conversations over a cuppa with CMO, we catch up with the delightful Pip Arthur, Microsoft Australia's chief marketing officer and communications director, to talk about thinking differently, delivering on B2B connection in the crisis, brand purpose and marketing transformation.

More Videos

Hey there! Very interesting article, thank you for your input! I found particularly interesting the part where you mentioned that certain...

Martin Valovič

Companies don’t have policies to disrupt traditional business models: Forrester’s McQuivey

Read more

I too am regularly surprised at how little care a large swathe of consumers take over the sharing and use of their personal data. As a m...

Catherine Stenson

Have customers really changed? - Marketing edge - CMO Australia

Read more

The biggest concern is the lack of awareness among marketers and the most important thing is the transparency and consent.

Joe Hawks

Data privacy 2021: What should be front and centre for the CMO right now

Read more

Thanks for giving these awesome suggestions. It's very in-depth and informative!sell property online

Joe Hawks

The new rules of Millennial marketing in 2021

Read more

In these tough times finding an earning opportunity that can be weaved into your lifestyle is hard. Doordash fits the bill nicely until y...

Fred Lawrence

DoorDash launches in Australia

Read more

Blog Posts

Highlights of 2020 deliver necessity for Circular Economies

The lessons emerging from a year like 2020 are what make the highlights, not necessarily what we gained. One of these is renewed emphasis on sustainability, and by this, I mean complete circular sustainability.

Katja Forbes

Managing director of Designit, Australia and New Zealand

Have customers really changed?

The past 12 months have been a confronting time for marketers, with each week seemingly bringing a new challenge. Some of the more notable impacts have been customer-centric, driven by shifting priorities, new consumption habits and expectation transfer.

Emilie Tan

Marketing strategist, Alpha Digital

Cultivating engaging content in Account-based Marketing (ABM)

ABM has been the buzzword in digital marketing for a while now, but I feel many companies are yet to really harness its power. The most important elements of ABM are to: Identify the right accounts; listen to these tracked accounts; and hyper-personalise your content to these accounts to truly engage them. It’s this third step where most companies struggle.

Joana Inch

Co-founder and head of digital, Hat Media Australia

Sign in